A brilliant article from The Argus 8 October 1908
In 1865 the Epsom Handicap, the famous spring mile was run in Sydney for the first time. Every year, apart from the EI year of 2007, the Epsom has been run and won. So by being first run in 1865 and it currently being 2016, less the missing year of 2007 that makes this Saturday’s Epsom, the 150th! Out of the 150 running’s, Gai has taken home the trophy seven times; in sixty years of trying, TJ only won the race once and it took Gunsynd to do it!
There have been five horses in the 150 year history of the race to win the Epsom in back-to-back years. In 1882 and 1883 a horse named Masquerade was the first to achieve this. A similarly named horse, Melodrama recorded consecutive wins in 1907 and 1908. Masquerade and Melodrama are both very important aspects to the classic Andrew Lloyd Webber musical The Phantom of the Opera just for interest’s sakes! Although Fabrizio Moretti is a drummer in the rock band The Strokes while Fabrizio Melan (Melano) is one of the great Opera lectures / educators of the world today. Please read on as to ascertain why Fabrizio is relevant to the conversation! Back to business… in 1963, a Queensland horse named Toi Port won the Epsom – then the next year, as The Beatles were flying out of Australia following their one and only visit Down Under, Toi Port won the race again. It then took until 1990 and 1991 and the champion gelding Super Impose before the race was again won in back-to-back years. Just for good measure in these years ‘Super’ as he was known also won the Doncaster.
Then fast forward until 2004 and 2005 and the giant gelding Desert War owned by Gooree Stud and trained by Gai Waterhouse, won the Epsom in consecutive years. Desert War is the fifth and the last to date of the back-to-back winners, but what is extra special is that Desert War went within a whisker of winning the race a third time in 2006. On this day in 2006 Desert War was beaten 0.2 lengths by the very much in-form miler of the time, the grey gelding Racing To Win. Then to add insult to injury, in 2007, Desert War was flying but the Epsom was not run due to EI. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but considering Desert War won the Queen Elizabeth in the autumn of 2007, he was looking great for a spring campaign, but alas Desert War certainly was not the only horse that missed opportunities during this despairing time for Sydney racing.
Nevertheless, Desert War has a stable named after him within Gai’s stable as a whole, he is in the annals of history as a consecutive winner of the Epsom, and he is one of the major reasons Gai is the leading Epsom Handicap winner of all-time, with more than twice as many victories in the great race as the next most successful.
Can Gai win the race in 2016? It will take a big gelding to do it, but who would bet against Fabrizio should Gai decide to run the son of High Chaparral? Desert War had won three of seven leading into the Epsom in 2004 – Fabrizio has won five of eight. Desert War was assigned with 50.5kg for his first crack at the Epsom Handicap – Fabrizio in early nominations has 50kg. Desert War was a 2000m horse and he proved this by winning the Queen Elizabeth and the Mackinnon – for weeks Gai has been saying Fabrizio is a middle distance horse and it is these horses that win the big mile races at Randwick. It is only Monday, but fingers crossed Gai has at least one chance to make it eight winners of the Epsom Handicap. After getting her licence, Gai won seven of the first 20 she contested after-all.